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Contributing Writer: Low En Xing

Pet owners, it’s safe to say that most of us are familiar with the dangers of common pests such as fleas and ticks. However, not all of us are aware of the equally dangerous threats that other creepy crawlies pose to our beloved pets, which can easily be found in our household, garden, and neighbourhood parks. 

From mosquitoes and caterpillars to mites, here are 7 other commonplace insects that you should keep a lookout for, as well as some preventive measures to safeguard your pet’s health! 

1. Bees/Wasps

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Pain aside, bee and wasp stings can lead to severe, life-threatening allergic reactions that result in shock and death, so it’s crucial to keep your pet away from bees and wasps on the off chance that it is truly allergic.

If your dog is stung, it’s best to rush them to a vet immediately for medical care. Mild allergies often result in symptoms like redness, mild swelling, heat, and itchiness around the sting, whereas severe allergic reactions would develop within just 10 – 30 minutes (in rare instances, it can develop 12 – 14 hours later, so make sure to stay vigilant until then) and cause a swelling of the eyes and face, which leads to difficulty breathing. 

Other signs of a severe allergic reaction include drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, and collapsing. 

2. Caterpillars

That’s right, caterpillars are not as harmless as they appear! While rarely life-threatening, some caterpillars can still cause plenty of discomfort and pain to your pet if ingested or brushed against. 

This is because caterpillars have two types of hair: urticating, which are non-venomous but able to cause irritation, and stinging, which can carry small amounts of poison. With dermal exposures, your pet may experience pain and rashes, though this is often unlikely thanks to your pet’s coat. However, due to the curious nature of our pets, oral exposures are more common and may lead to drooling, head shaking, pawing due to discomfort, gastritis, as well as oral irritation.

Luckily, there aren’t many exotic, poisonous and stinging caterpillars around in Singapore, but some, especially those of the Danaide family (the common Tiger and Crow Butterflies), feed on poisonous plants and store toxins in their body, which can cause predators to vomit when eaten. 

If you suspect that your pet has been stung by or ingested a poisonous caterpillar, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cold compress or rinse your pet’s mouth out thoroughly. In most non-serious cases, the stings would disappear in about an hour or so, but if your pet’s condition persists, it would be best to bring them to the vet for treatment. 

3. Cockroaches

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever caught your pet chasing or playing with a roach! While this is usually not a cause for concern (though it is unsettlingly disgusting), it is still best to ensure that your pet does not actually eat the foul pest as your pet might end up sick. 

Firstly, roaches may be carriers of parasites that could enter your pet’s system when consumed, which could then cause damage to your pet’s health. Furthermore, cockroaches are known to harbour unwanted bacteria including salmonella, clostridium, streptococcus, coliform, and staphylococci, which can cause a range of diseases in your pet if ingested, such as food poisoning or typhoid. 

To keep these pesky bugs at bay, Bio-X 3-in-1 Aerosol Spray is a safe (for both you and your pet) and effective formula that eliminates insect pests such as mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, houseflies, bed bugs, flea, ticks, and carpet mites!

4. Centipedes

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House centipedes are generally harmless to dogs and cats, but they do have venom and they do bite if threatened, which could lead to localised swelling or skin inflammation in your pet. However, if your pet is allergic to the venom, your pet may start to experience symptoms like vomiting and breathing difficulties — this is when you ought to rush your pet to the vet!

In rare, severe cases, your pet may even suffer from fever and weakness if it is bitten by a toxic centipede such as the Giant Redheaded Centipede. Thankfully, that is hardly found in Singapore. 

5. Ear mites

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As suggested by its name, ear mites reside in your pets’ ears, which can result in an ear-mite infestation as they slowly start to breed. These pests are dangerous as they can cause ear damage in the later stages of the infestation, and will constantly cause extreme itchiness and discomfort to your pet. 

Furthermore, these pests are highly contagious among pets, so if you notice one of your furry friends fervently scratching its ears while shaking its head, it’s best to bring all of your pets for a checkup at the vet!

6. Spiders

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Similar to centipedes and caterpillars, your pets are likely to be in danger only when exposed to poisonous spiders. As a general rule of thumb, any poisonous spider that can harm people can also harm your pet, but because your pet is so much smaller than you, the damage that a spider’s venom can do to it would also be a lot greater. 

Some of the more common poisonous spiders to look out for in Singapore include the Black Widow and Brown Recluse, though it is rather rare for a poisonous spider to appear in your high-rise home. 

That said, early symptoms of a venomous spider bite include redness as well as swelling, and if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a poisonous spider, we recommend rushing it to a vet for medical attention. 

7. Worm parasites

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While there are many different types of worm parasites, tapeworms and heartworms are some of the most common parasitic pests to guard against in sunny, tropical Singapore. If they enter and reside in your pet’s body, the former can cause major discomfort while the latter can even result in sudden death, in severe cases. 

Tapeworms usually develop after a dog or cat swallows a flea that’s infected with the parasite’s larvae. While tapeworms are easy to identify (you may see white, rice-like pieces in your pet’s faeces or worms in its vomit) and treat, your pet may still suffer from the following problems: 

  • Weight loss even when eating normally
  • Lethargy
  • Distended abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dull coat. 

On the other hand, heartworms are transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito, which allows heartworm larvae to enter the bloodstream of your pets. If undetected and untreated early, the heartworms will multiply until there are several hundreds of them in your pet’s heart, arteries, and lungs, causing long-lasting damage that would affect your pet’s quality of life even after it’s been successfully treated. 

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to detect the infection in its early stages without a blood test, which is why vets often recommend putting your pet on regular heartworm preventives. As the infection gets more severe, the symptoms will become more noticeable and include:

  • Fatigue, tiredness, and increase in sleep
  • Loss in appetite
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Moodiness and a reluctance to exercise or play
  • A swollen stomach and chest area
  • Darkish brown coloured urine
  • Heavy panting after a small amount of exercise
  • Pale gums
  • Cardiovascular collapse.

It’s important to note as well that while cats are less susceptible to infection as compared to dogs because they are not a natural host of heartworms, some still do get infected, so they require preventives too.

Preventive measures

To minimise the chances of attracting unwanted pests to your pets, consider using pet-friendly insect repellents that contain natural ingredients such as lemongrass and citronella that aid in repelling creepy crawlies.

If you’re a fan of scents, Washbar’s Daily Spritzers will tickle your fancy. The daily spray contains no alcohol and uses only plant-derived ingredients, and all you need to do is to spritz it on your dog or anywhere it’s lying at to keep those nasty fleas away. 

For a fuss-free, full-body repellent against fleas and ticks, TropiClean’s Natural Flea and Tick Collar is made with natural active ingredients such as cedarwood and peppermint oils, well-known for their effectiveness against those pesky bugs. Plus, the collar is waterproof and will last you for 4 months.

Keeping an eye on your pet at all times when it’s exploring the great outdoors will also help to prevent insect mishaps, and if you ever suspect that your pet might be suffering from a run-in with any of these insects, it’s better to go for a medical checkup immediately and be safe than sorry!

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